CART Media Conference
Juan Pablo Montoya
August 10, 1999
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. We'd like to thank you all for taking the time to be with us this afternoon. Our guest today is in the process of rewriting the FedEx Championship Series rookie record book during a spectacular inaugural season. We'd like to welcome Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Good afternoon, Juan, and thanks for being with us this afternoon.
JUAN MONTOYA: Good afternoon. Thank you.
T.E. McHALE: Juan, the driver of the No. 4 Target Honda Reynard spent nine weeks atop the PPG Cup Point Standings until being overtaken by Team KOOL Green Dario Franchitti at Sunday's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. He leads the FedEx Championship Series with four victories at Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro, and Cleveland, and five pole positions at Nazareth, Gateway, Portland, Cleveland, and Detroit. His consecutive victories at Long Beach, Nazareth, and Rio de Janeiro marked only the 11th time in CART history that a driver had won three straight events and the first time a rookie had done so. On nine of the previous ten occasions in which that feat has been accomplished, the driver doing so has gone on to win the PPG Cup. Earlier this season Juan set a CART record for laps led by a rookie when he passed Alex Zanardi's 1996 standard of 610. Juan has since moved into 6th place on the single season laps led chart, with 696; just three behind fifth place Michael Andretti's 1986 total of 699 laps led. Juan's 696 laps led in just one season also places him 16th on CART's career laps led list. Juan also owns podium finishes of second at Portland and Michigan Speedway, and has scored at least one PPG Cup points in 11 of 13 starts this season. Heading into Sunday Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course he stands second in the FedEx Championship Series points race with 131, five behind leader Dario Franchitti. The Miller Lite 200, Round 14 of the FedEx Championship Series will be broadcast on a one-hour tape delay basis by ESPN this Sunday beginning at 3:30 P.M. Eastern time. Before we open it up to questions for Juan, I'd like to address some concerns which have arisen regarding an incident involving the pace car during the final few laps of Sunday's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. The pace cars were switched during the caution period which began on lap 66 because the fuel line of the original pace car had been cut by debris from the accident involving Cristiano da Matta and Al Unser Jr.. n such instances there is always a second pace car ready and the teams were notified twice over the radio by CART Race Control that a switch in pace cars was about to take place. A review of time-coded videotapes shows that the original pace car entered pit lane with its caution lights still on and that it was on pit road a full five seconds before turning those lights out. In addition, crossed yellow flags were still in evidence on the course indication a continuing caution period. We hope that clears up any confusion regarding the incident and with that we are going to open it up to questions for Juan.
Q. What is it like now after taking the lead and probably feel a little bit on top of the world now to be sort of like really in a real fight for this Championship? Will it change at all your approach or what have you been thinking about the last couple of days?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I am not very concerned, you know, I think we got the potential to win the Championship, just got to -- U.S. 500 was really good, but before that we lost a lot of points as well. I don't know, I think we need communication between the team, but we always win; we always lose so that is as simple as that.
Q. You as a driver, I mean, you are going to have races like what happened on Sunday occasionally; aren't you?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, sometimes it is going to happen, but it shouldn't happen. We made a mistake and we have to pay for it.
Q. Didn't you win a race, was it a Barber-Saab race at Mid-Ohio back in 1994; is that correct?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, Barber-Saab.
Q. What do you remember about that racetrack? I know you have tested there and stuff. Does it suit you very well for what you like to do?
JUAN MONTOYA: Don't know. It is another road course I like to drive. I have to get there first and see what happens.
Q. Is there perhaps an increased sense of, let's say, urgency around the Target team now that you have lost the lead, you were cruising, went right along there and it looks like you sort of come back to the pack; is that worrying the folks over with Chip and the rest of the crew very much at all?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I don't think so. I don't think -- first of all, I don't think they catching us out a lot - what happens is we make some mistakes; I think they made the wrong calls in the pits, but we are a team. Sometimes I will make the mistake; sometimes they will do. I don't think they are very concerned. They are pissed off because we are giving away the races, but that is the way it goes.
Q. Can you tell me in your words how you felt or what you saw during that whole pace car change and how that -- how you saw it and what you thought happened?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, nobody told me anything about it. They told my team; the team didn't ready - I don't know why - so when the pace car left everyone - the guys in front start accelerating. I accelerate and they braked; when they braked, I braked again. Just Helio understood that it is going to green, that lap, he just run in the back of me, simple as that.
Q. The other thing is at the beginning of the year you were being new to the series, did you think that anyone in particular would be following you closely like Dario has or were you nervous about Dario in particular?
JUAN MONTOYA: I know Dario from few years ago, so -- I don't know, I wasn't -- I am concerned about everyone; not only Dario.
Q. But was he one of the guys who you were thinking about that kind of -- that you thought might be vying for the Championship, I guess?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, he would be one. Michael would be the other one. Jimmy should be there as well. There is a couple of guys that they are in the top.
Q. Have you gotten used to all the hoopla of being a top driver on the CART Series as a rookie or is it still coming new to you?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I think we have done very well so far. I don't think you get used to it, to being in the front. You just want to be in the front all the time. It is different.
Q. The dealing with the media and dealing with fans and all the marketing that goes on around you, has that been a surprise to you how much it is, or is it what you expected?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I wasn't expecting anything. I didn't know what to expect. Since the season started, we wanted to win and be in the front and that is what we did.
Q. Has your success on the track, have you noticed more of the other things that go with it, coming along with it, or has it been sort of a steady thing?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't know. It was a big surprise because first race I could go and walk everywhere; I could do anything I wanted to through the paddock. Now I can't really do anything through the paddock. Everyone knows me and it gets more difficult further that the season goes.
Q. Question about Detroit, you were gaining about a second a lap, I think, on Dario when you were trying to get back into the cycle. Were you particularly frustrated, two-parter, particularly frustrated with traffic and could you describe a little more what happened with you and Moreno?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, since we pitted -- since we didn't pit, I knew the race was basically over. I wanted to try to get the best points I could. And, with Moreno, I don't know, I went for the move; I brake late and I lock my rear tires and when I lock my rear tires he didn't give me any room. So even if I would have the car straight with the touch because I was going to go by him and he didn't want to. I would think, of course, he is trying to help Michael, because you don't know how many real points in the Championship and me behind them, that means taking points away from me. I was going to move forward one way or the other.
Q. Go back about passing in Detroit, it is probably the tightest course -- tighter than Long Beach.
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, a bit tighter than Long Beach, but -- I pass Moreno Kanaan, and then I lost two places with Moreno and then I got them back again right after the restart. We are very lucky that all the time was yellow, was yellow, was yellow because we couldn't do anything. And everyone that was lean on fuel, they were -- they were okay at the end of the race so we couldn't do anything.
Q. Just to go back a couple of races, when you came to Toronto, was that the first time you had been in Canada?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah.
Q. Did you enjoy it?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, it was fun. I like Canada. I went through Downtown all that; it was nice. It was a weekend to forget because everything went really bad, but the city itself was beautiful.
Q. What have you heard about the Vancouver track?
JUAN MONTOYA: I saw the race. I think the track looks pretty much fun. I hope it doesn't go as fast as Toronto and it goes a bit like more like Detroit way.
Q. I know it is a few races away but has Chip told you about the track or any of the drivers?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, you know, we always try to go race by race. First of all, we got Mid-Ohio; then Chicago coming up, and for tires it is a very big event. We have to concentrate and win those two before we go there.
Q. I'd like to ask if you as a rookie coming into the series have noticed any resentment amongst other drivers for what you have accomplished?
JUAN MONTOYA: I am sure some guy will say that it is because I am in the No. 4 car of Target. I don't know, I just try to go out and do the best I can and you can't think about what other people are going to say about it.
Q. How did you assess the bottle between you and Dario for the rest of the year? Did you expect to be able to pull away from him again or do you think it is really going to go right down to Fontana now.
JUAN MONTOYA: Hopefully it won't go down to Fontana. Hopefully we will win it before that. But I am pretty good friends with Dario and I am sure it is going to be a lot of fun.
Q. You were talking earlier about Moreno being out there to try and help Michael get points. From the Target standpoint, this has been a little unusual season in that Jimmy is not having a good year so what you have done, you have more or less done on your own. Is there much discussion within the team or any soul searching as to what to do to get Jimmy better?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, Jimmy, you know, he just had bad luck. He has been having bad luck on the weekend and setup and things. The car, from the start -- he has been struggling, but you saw U.S. 500, he was quick. They haven't put the act together, but I am sure Jimmy will be up there sooner than later.
Q. One other question, with this thing in Hawaii, the super prix or whatever, is that something drivers are thinking about along with the Championship or are they thinking with points for that and qualifying for that at all?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't, you know, I am concentrating first -- you got to go one thing at a time and at the moment it is the Championship. When the Championship is over, then we will worry about the other things.
Q. What exactly was the miscommunication on the pit on them not bringing you in? Did Chip actually say "Stay in?"
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, but he was talking to the mechanics; not to me. So I think it was something with the button that he pressed or something. I don't know what happened. I don't really know what happen. The only thing he said, stay in and stay out and (inaudible) and 10-4, stand pout. I radio back and so I past the pit entrance; nobody said anything me.
Q. You basically didn't get a message then; right?
JUAN MONTOYA: I never got the message to pit.
Q. When they realized that you had gone by the pit, then what did they say?
JUAN MONTOYA: They said: Ooh, you know, why you didn't pit. You never called me in.
Q. Have you and Chip kind of talked this over and got it all settled or there must have been some rough feelings over it?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, when we win, we all win; when we lose, we all lose. We are a team and we are always together.
Q. When you come back to the pit after the mishap, you said that you were ready to say something, but being that you are scared of the terror of the exist in Formula I, you refrain yourself. What --
JUAN MONTOYA: No.
Q. What did you say?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, nothing. That is it. I was pissed off at the time and everything and I didn't want to get involved in any kind of contest because the thing that happened through the race.
Q. Now that the contest is past, you can say anything?
JUAN MONTOYA: Nope.
Q. Listen, with the arrival of Tony in the Green Team, we noticed the continuously increased of speed and importance of the -- Tracy and Franchitti. Do you think it is dangerous for your conquer -- for your success?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, it is a long season; not too many races to go. I don't know, we got to be a bit patient to see what is going to happen. We have proven that we can beat them. We are quicker than them on the weekend and we are very much quicker than them in the race.
Q. Do you think you have more luck in the oval or in the street?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't know, I think I got in both of them. Sometimes you want to have more, but....
Q. What did Chip say to you after the race? Was there a calming influence by Chip or was there a go-get-'em type of attitude?
JUAN MONTOYA: After the race.
JUAN MONTOYA: Nothing, you know, I said to Chip, don't worry, we all -- sometimes we win; sometimes we lose, we are always together when we win because we have everyone of us did a great job. Look at Toronto, Toronto made the mistake and that was it. We are a team, everyone -- all my guys and everyone on the team supports me and I support them the same way.
Q. Is there a different attitude now that you are the chaser instead of the chasee going into Mid-Ohio? Do you carry a different mental attitude into the race?
JUAN MONTOYA: No. The idea is to beat everything, so we have to wait until what happens.
Q. Curious about your impressions of the CART Series now and compare it to when you first came in?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is the same impression. I think it is a great series. I enjoy driving here a lot. I think I am in a great team and a great position. I am working with Morris and everyone on the team is a lot of fun. I don't know, I think it is a good series and I would love to be champion at the end of the year.
Q. How about in the future, I understand you will be here next year, but after that, will you be going back to Formula I?
JUAN MONTOYA: Don't know yet. Take it race by race, year by year.
Q. Do you follow the International Race of Champion Series and is that something that you'd like to participate in?
JUAN MONTOYA: In what?
Q. The IROC Series.
JUAN MONTOYA: Oh, don't know. I never really followed them. I don't know. I think we got a very heavy calendar and I don't know, I don't think I would do it.
Q. You won't do it because -- for what specific reason?
JUAN MONTOYA: We don't have much time off and that will take the little time off we got to race and it will take it -- I might change my mind, but we are trying to race something; we got a professional job to do here.
Q. I am still confused here because you really had that race wrapped up in Detroit. Every yellow you just pulled out really easy. Then there is a cross signal and you go past the pits. But then you go back and you are still out there and they still don't call you in. It seemed like they changed their pit strategy. Like they said, okay, really go for it and go as fast as you can. Didn't they have a chance to call you in after they realized their mistake?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, it would be worse because it would have been the same situation like everyone else, probably in the back of the race because they already made a pack. So the way we did it, we looked about four places or five places in the track because such a difference I had so.....
Q. Wasn't there a time when it was still under yellow; they still could have called you in?
JUAN MONTOYA: No. Because as soon as I went through the pits, the pace car was in front; everyone made a pack-up.
Q. Back at the U.S. 500 did you think you would catch Tony at the end when Max ran out of fuel?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I thought it was going to be close, but we made so much drop (inaudible) I knew it was going to be a bit too late. I was a bit too focused (inaudible) to go by him.
Q. Look ahead to this coming weekend, Mid-Ohio, you have tested on the track. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on how to get around it?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is a great track. I race there five years ago. I won there in Barber-Saab and I was pretty quick in the test so I am looking forward to.
Q. Any particular corners or areas of the track that you like?
JUAN MONTOYA: Most of it. I think it has great corners everywhere.
Q. I have two questions for you. First one was touched on earlier in the interview. I am not so concerned about Chip and the team all that. I want to ask, Juan Montoya, the driver, you were in a position where you had a very comfortable lead in the points. You have had some problems now. You have slipped out of the points lead. Do you personally feel any additional pressure put on you now and since this has happened?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I think pressure is on Dario's way right now because now he has to try to keep me behind him and I think it is going to be a very tough. I am not going to give away that easy.
Q. Second thing, if you indeed at the end of the season triumph as the Champion, what would that mean to you as a rookie to do that? It has not been done very often.
JUAN MONTOYA: It would be great. It would be something new and I don't know, I have to win it first before I think about it.
Q. Being a F-3000 driver for a couple of years and testing for Williams, at what point did the possibility of becoming a Champ Car driver arise?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't know. When I saw the opportunity to come to Chip Ganassi and Target Team straight-a-way, I took the chance -- I took it because I thought it was a great thing.
Q. Was that during 1998 or were there talks in 1997 as well?
JUAN MONTOYA: 1998 only.
Q. Have you been able to get the car set up the way that you like it or have you been having to drive around it? I was thinking of Detroit primarily.
JUAN MONTOYA: No, we have been able to set up the car my way. You can't have the car the way you like it. You won't be able to push the car to the limit.
Q. Is your driving style and the setups that you prefer different from Jimmy so that you can't really work on the setups together?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, we can't. I don't think any driver can work together setup-wise. Some basic things could work, but the setup itself would be very different because I right foot brake; Jimmy left foot brakes. Every driver has its own style.
Q. When you were starting as a young driver, any drivers that you were particularly a fan of?
JUAN MONTOYA: Ayrton Senna.
Q. What are your impressions of the Chicago course?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is going to be a great track and I don't know, I think Chip and everyone in Chicago has done a great job. I think Target is going to have a great event there and hopefully we can win it. I would love to win there.
Q. Did you have radio communication when you had the problem with the pace car?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, I had. I didn't have any problems. I braked. Nobody radio me, but I braked anyway. I wouldn't hit anyone. I think Helio misunderstood what -- what Hogan said to him and that was his problem. He is always to go green that lap and he was supposed to go green the lap after.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you are going to face in overtaking Dario to pick up the title in your rookie season?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't know, we have to get back together. Either way we have too many races and too many points. I think we have to fix that up so we can go to win the Championship.
Q. Are you surprised you haven't really been involved in any, but are you surprised at the amount of incidents that are happening at the start of the race, for instance, Max didn't make it through the first lap this past weekend, drivers need to respect each other a little bit more?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, maybe, I think that is pretty important. Some drivers, that they don't respect much, but sometimes I sense will happen.
Q. There has been 13 races so far. Is this longer than F-3000 and is it becoming a long season for you?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I have been surprised that the races have gone so far. But we have to wait and see what happens. We will be okay.
Q. You got four more months of racing.
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, but hopefully we are going to be four good months.
Q. Roger Penske just hired two drivers and rumors are rampant that their salaries are -- de Ferran may be making as much as $4 million bucks and Greg Moore might be somewhere in that ballpark --
JUAN MONTOYA: Good for them.
Q. What would be a good salary for you to start off on an open market right now? What do you think you would be worth?
JUAN MONTOYA: Don't know. And I am not racing because of money, I am racing because I love racing and I want to win races.
Q. Are you a bargain this year?
JUAN MONTOYA: Don't know. I am a rookie.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks a lot. We appreciate Juan being with us today. Juan, thanks for taking the time to join us. Best of luck in the Miller Lite 200 coming up this weekend and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series.
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